Fixed and mobile service provider Saudi Telecom Company (STC), has revealed plans to cut a series of mobile service charges as of tomorrow, in an attempt to up its customer base before the entrance of a second mobile operator in mid-2005. The company said it will cut the annual fee for international roaming, as well as the charge for upgrading pre-paid mobiles to contracts, both of which currently stand at SAR100. It will also halve the SAR100 charge for changing or reissuing mobile chips/mobile installation. The monthly subscription fee for WAP and DATA services will be cut from SAR20 to just SAR4, while the cost of accessing the internet will be available at SAR3 per hour, with no installation fee or monthly costs. Last month STC reduced international call charges by up to 44%.
UAE-based Etisalat is due to roll out its mobile network in Saudi Arabia by mid-2005 under the banner Ettihad Etisalat. It was awarded a combined GSM-900/3G network in July 2004, beating seven other bidders – Vodafone (UK), Telefónica (Spain), MTC (Kuwait), MTN (South Africa), Orascom Telecom (Egypt), Telecom Italia Mobile (Italy) and Bouygues Telecom (France) – with an offer of SAR12.21 billion (USD3.26 billion).
STC launched its GSM-900 network in 1996 and since that date its subscriber base has witnessed considerable growth, reaching 8.3 million by 30 September 2004. Its network covers 93% of the population, although it claims to be working hard to achieve 100% coverage as soon as possible. STC offers post-paid services under the brand name Aljawal, and launched pre-paid services in April 2002 under the SAWA brand name. In addition to domestic and international voice telephony and roaming services, the operator has a number of value added offerings, including SMS, call barring, fax and data services; it also offers WAP and has deployed GPRS technology. STC plans to introduce service packages geared specifically to the needs of the business community, including closed user group services, mobile virtual private networks, automated vehicle location and freephone numbers.